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TV Shootout 2017: LG OLED Takes Top Honors... Again

By Chris Boylan

The TV Shootout is something that home theater hobbyists and video aficionados like me look forward to every year. For more than a decade, Robert Zohn, owner of Value Electronics, has put the top performing TVs from various manufacturers into a room, brought in professional TV calibrators and invited customers, enthusiast and journalists to rate the sets on a variety of different criteria. The winner has been crowned that year's "King of TV."

This year, things were done a bit differently, but the results were not terribly different (or surprising) compared to previous years. Instead of Robert running the show, and providing the TVs from his own store, Robert licensed the name and concept for the event to CE Week and stepped back to just enjoy the ride without all the pressure of running the event. Apparently this year the show organizer purchased the TVs at retail (except the Sony LED/LCD and Westinghouse sets which were manufacturer loaners). The show organizer said he'd be returning the sets to the store after the show. Let's hope the salesman wasn't counting on that commission.

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ISF Founder and President Joel Silver goes over the myths of the "next big thing" in the TV business.

As with previous years, expert calibrators Joel Silver and Kevin Miller made sure that all of the sets were calibrated to perform their best. Joel is the founder and president of the ISF (Imaging Science Foundation), and Kevin is a well respected industry consultant and President of ISFTV. The shootout got rolling with a presentation from Joel on the current state of TV technology and the audience was treated to a series of clips and test patterns, in high definition, Ultra High Definition (UHD) and UHD with High Dynamic Range (HDR). Unlike previous years where regular folks (customers and hobbyists) voted to determine the winner, this year a panel of independent expert judges with experience in content creation and video mastering were the only ones who got to cast the votes.

The categories for consideration this year included studio lighting/home theater performance, HDR and bright room performance, and streaming performance. This last one is actually fairly important as streaming is where most of the current 4K/HDR content comes from these days. The "home theater performance" category was broken down into multiple sub-categories, looking at perceived contrast ratio (40% of the total score), color saturation and color volume (20%), colorimitry including grayscale tracking, gamut coverage, and saturation (20%), and motion artifacts/perceived lag (20%).

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The judges' scorecard included specific instructions on how to score each element of the crucial "home theater performance" category.

The contenders included the usual suspects: Samsung, Sony, LG and VIZIO, with newcomer Westinghouse providing one of their UHD models as well (though it didn't perform well in such lofty company). The specific models in the running this year all measured in at 65 inches (diagonally). These were the models and approximate retail prices:

  • LG OLED65E7P OLED ($4,800)
  • Sony XBR-65A1E OLED ($5,000)
  • Sony XBR-65Z9D LED/LCD ($5,500)
  • Samsung QN65Q9F LED/LCD ($4,000)
  • Vizio P65E1 LED/LCD ($1,700)
  • Westinghouse WA65UFA1001 Amazon Fire TV Edition LED/LCD ($650)

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A gray scale test pattern reveals off-axis viewing issues with the least expensive TVs in the shootout (the VIZIO and the Westinghouse)

In a surprise to virtually no one, LG's OLED65E7P OLED TV scored at the top of each category, winning the shootout for the fourth year in a row. Although LED/LCD sets (particularly the Samsung and the Sony) are capable of getting much brighter than the OLED TVs, the OLED's inky blacks and deeply saturated colors won the day. The Sony XBR-65A1E (which uses an LG OLED panel, married with Sony's own video processing) put in a strong enough performance in the Studio Lighting/Home Theater category to earn that set an honorable mention. The VIZIO P65E1 put up a decent fight, particularly considering its price point, but the Westinghouse was clearly out-classed. But at $650, that result is not unexpected.

And if you want to save a bit on the LG OLED, the same panel and processing appears in the entire 2017 line-up -- the B7, C7, E7, G7 and W7 models -- with the only differences being the form factor and audio performance.

So, once again, when it comes to picture performance, it's OLED for the win... and also for the honorable mention. Will there be more players in the OLED game in future years? Let's hope so. And as to what future technology will ultimately dethrone OLED for the crown -- and when that will happen -- this remains to be seen.

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